Thursday 11 March 2010

Book Bigamy?

In the absence of a review on yet another day (I know, I am miserable at keeping up with this but please do check out the many, many books reviews I have already posted!) I want to open the floor with a question:

Are you faithful to your current book or do you commit book bigamy?

I am currently reading The Midnight Mayor by Kate Griffin. From the moment I crack the spine to the closing of the last page, it is the ONLY book that will have my attention. I only ever read one book at a time.

But I have heard *whispers* of people who read more than one book at a time...

My questions are:

- Do you read one or many?

- If many, do you have a particular technique? Locations for certain books? Reading different genres to keep everything fresh?

- How on earth do you keep all the stories straight?

- Why do you read more than once at a time? To get through more? Or to keep your interest?

Please comment below with your answers!


  1. I didn't used to be, but I suppose these days, with so much to read and actual pressure to get it all read, I am a bit of a book bigamist.

    Generally I'll be reading one book from cover to cover but it's certainly not unheard of now for me to break up a difficult, dense novel with something a little easier to swallow. At the moment, I'm concentrating all my energies on Blake Charlton's Spellwright - wonderful so far - with Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon playing an occasional mistress to my bookwife.

    Not a good idea, I've found, to be reading two similar books at once, though. Particularly with all the common fantasy tropes, I just get all in a muddle. Different genres, or at least very different storytelling voices, are much easier to stomach at the same time.

  2. I am truly faithful to the novel I read. Well, most of the times. I usually concentrate on the book in hand giving it my full attention and trying to take in as many details as possible. Since I've started to blog, I concentrate even more on almost every detail I can keep my eye on.
    Still, there are moments when I need to go away a bit from that particular book, and it is due to different reasons. It is possible not to like it much (although lately I was lucky in this part), I need to settle the things I read in that book for the time being or it is a bit too long and I need a small review. Then I usually read an anthology, because I can finish the short story with the same amount of attention given to them and I don't end up with two ufinished readings or a novella or novelette, which I become to love more and more.
    P.S. When I was in high-school and in college I had a fantasy football championship, where the teams were the imaginary locations from my readings and the players the characters. I still remember some of the minor characters from those readings :)

  3. I will read anthology collections and non-fiction alongside a novel. I'm trying to spend at least as much time writing as reading, so time is also a factor for me.

  4. I usually have a few books going at a time, in all honesty. Usually two, sometimes three, and usually where and when I read them are situationally dependant. I've usually got an ebook or free online book that I read via my computer. I've got a hardcopy of a book that I read around the house, which could be fiction or nonfiction, and are varying length and complexity. Then I've got my bus reading, which is usually fiction, usually nothing too overtly controversial, usually nothing hugely popular either (I've had bad experiences where people see me reading some popular book on the bus and they take that as an invitation to come and talk to me for the rest of the trip), that I can read on the bus, and considering that bus trips take anywhere between 5 minutes and half an hour depending on where I'm going, that adds up to a lot of reading time.

    Unlike some people, I don't have a problem keeping track of characters and plots when I switch between books. Not sure why. Maybe it's just the way my brain works, I guess.

    The downside to this method is that the books don't always get read quickly. I can read 300 pages in a day, for example, and if I stick to one novel, perhaps I'm almost finished it. But break it up between three books and I've probably only made it 1/4 of the way through, give or take a fraction. This is why it seems like I've been reading some books for months buy have finished 5 others in the meantime. I'm not shafting the first book, it's just that the situation for reading it hasn't come up as often.

    It has its advantages and disadvantages, as does everything. The way I do it means that I can get bored of a book and put it down but still have something else if I still feel like reading. But I don't get through books as quickly, and am more likely to put a book down and forget to pick it back up again. But I've always got something to read no matter where I am.

    Different strokes for different folks, as they say! :)

  5. Confession from a book adultery ,
    Yes I have sinned ! Not only one time, but all the time. In the evening, the morning , afternoon, actually all the time. I can’t stop I don’t know if I want to. And why do I behave like that, is it because the lawn is greener on the other side of the fence? Is it not enough, having one book on your lap? Sadly, No !

    I want to read different stories depending on my mood and interests. Some novels fits when I am sitting in my favorite sofa and one in bed ,etc I even listen to at least 2-3 audiobooks… (not at the same time..I am not a pervert :))

  6. Oooh! Thank you so far for all the fabulous comments!

    @Niall - I must confess that the sheer avalanche of books passing through my door right now is starting to make me think about picking up more than one book! But so far I haven't been able to bring myself to do so.

    @Mihai - now the short story anthology idea I can sort of get on board with. I can see not wanting to pick up a full novel because you're going out shortly and just need something short and easy to get you through, and there is no point in immersing yourself in a novel. The benefits of short stories being interspersed with novels are many, I'd imagine.

    @Jason - I'm trying to introduce regular writing into my already packed schedule. You sound as though you're having more luck than me!

    @Ria - another lovely comment from you, I really enjoy your thoughtful and indepth visits to my blog! And it sounds as though you are a fully-fledged book bigamist! My biggest problem with book monogamy are the situations where I end up enmeshed in a book that reads veeeerrrry slowly (I had this with Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle last year). It means my reading slows down hugely. However, I also know that if I were to put the more challenging book down in favour of something quicker and easier, I would more than likely never pick it up again.

    @VSF - Oooh, another adulterer, hmm? I do admit that on occasions I have not enjoyed a book so much because I wasn't in the right mood to read it, and I should really have moved onto something else: book bigamy does present one answer to that problem.

  7. Interesting post. If I'm reading a fiction novel, I'll stick to it and finish it quickly. I like to be immersed and "feel the vibe" of the story, as it were.

    But, otherwise, I've a few books tabbed in the name of "research". At the moment, it's human brain evolution, a classic mythology overview and the translation of some samurai texts. To get immersed too deeply into those would affect my output, so I take them in slowly.

  8. I definitely read multiple books at one time. The problem is that i've become very fickle in my reading. Whenever I'm in a different mood, I'll pick up another book. So, I now just try to have a few books going at one time, like a fantasy and a sci-fi book (which helps on keeping them straight). Also I'll have an audiobook going usually.

    Plus, the way i look at it - all throughout school, I was able to have multiple textbooks going along with outside novels and English "literature". So, if I could handle all of that, I should be able to handle a few leisure novels at one time.

  9. I prefer to concentrate on one book at a time but I sometimes have a traveling book in my purse to go along with a book that I keep at home, usually when I'm reading something oversize or hardcover that isn't very portable.

  10. @Wolfandrain - thanks for visiting, I now have your blog in my Google Reader and I'm looking forward to seeing what you serve up.

    @Bryce - your last point really made me go 'huh!' because you're absolutely right! All through my schooling (which only ended properly a few years back) I was regularly dealing with non-fiction alongside my fiction books and managing to keep everything all separated. I wonder how I'd far with adding additional fiction books?

  11. Oops, you must have posted Takarameri as I was putting up my reply! The book in my handbag is always my current book regardless - even when it is a massive hardback! *grin* Yep, I have a very large handbag :-D

  12. I used to be one book at a time. Now that I actually review books, I find myself often reading two at a time. Just recently I was juggling three, one of them being on audio.

  13. @Magemanda - I think it's less that my comments and thoughts are indepth and more that I just ramble a lot! XD But thank you for the compliment! :)

  14. i sometimes read two at time ussually short storys and a novel at same time

  15. In recent months I've generally had two or three reasonably time-consuming books going at the same time. Usually at least one of them is litcrit or essays or short stories - something that allows for me to dip in and out of it. I've also been reading a lot of romance recently, and those books usually get read on evenings when I'm too tired for anything else; they're read in one go and so don't actively interfere with the other books.

    And I read kidlit at work, but that's work, so it doesn't count.

  16. There was a time when I'd have up to 3 books on the go at any one time - one I'd read during the day, one in the bath, another at night. Now, I prefer to just have the one. Mostly because of writing commitments. These days I carve out a mandatory couple of hours in the evening before going to sleep to read and make myself stick to just the one book, I find I read a lot faster and a lot more books that way. Right now I'm averaging 3 - 4 books a month. I'm desperately trying to up that amount!

  17. Hehe...'book bigamy' I love the term!

    Yep, serious bigamist here. I could be juggling anything from 2-4 books at a time.

    How do I manage it? Well an intense Mediaeval History degree - mixed with Ancient History and Art History for the first two years - taught me that is is possible to keep the reigns on multiple reading assignments. The secret is to ensure that all of the selections you are reading at once, are so far detached from one another than they don't/can't blend into one another other (the same holds true for fiction). Then it's just a case of gradually chipping away at each one until they are read.

    Admittedly it can dilute the reading experience somewhat, and if one of the novels one is reading is deep then it can complicate things, but then one simply puts a stop on everything else and concentrates solely on the one book until finished.

    Usually I also only read one longer novel at a time, and I maybe mix in a novella and a couple of short story collections with it.

    Why do I read more than one at once? Same as most bibliophiles really - not enough hours in a lifetime to read everything I want to read, and review commitments. I also love bringing as much variety to my reading as I can too.

    Of course if I'm reading anything from one of most dearest authors - Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Endo, Murakami, Ammaniti etc. and of course the master Steinbeck, then they all get my undivided attention

    A great question. Hope my response is of some small value

  18. Once again, thanks to everyone who have taken the time to stop by and give me some insights into the reading processes of others.

    From the sounds of it, I think most people seem to flirt at least now and then with reading more than one book at a time - and for the same reasons (having so many books to read and so little time).

    Here's another follow-up question for those who are picking up the replies: How much has being a book reviewer with your own site meant changing your reading habits?

  19. I have really been enjoying reading the post, and all of the comments --- I feel I am in good company! I wound up putting something on my own blog: here
    because I figured my responses would take up a lot of space in this comment box. However, I have enjoyed reading what people have to say about their own reading habits. I'm one of those book bigamists, I must admit. And I'm not alone!! :)

  20. Finally I found some time to read all these interesting comments. I think I'm in good company.

    My reading habits changed a bit when I started to write reviews. And I changed them again since I started to write one review per week. You may think only one review per week. But keep in mind that you need to read a book first before you can review it. My time for reading and reviewing is limited. Really limited except on holidays.

    Normally I read three books parallel.

    - The book I want to review

    - A book with a different setting
    which means when my first book is fantasy, my second book is something different like sci-fi, crime, mystery

    - The third book is my so called long time read
    which means I read it every time I like without a deadline.

    I know there are a lot of people who find it confusing to read books parallel. But not for me. I always write notes and comments on a sheet of paper which I put into the book.

    It doesn't matter how many books you read. It doesn't matter where and when you read them.

    The only thing that matters: Enjoy reading!

  21. I think that reviewing books has made me a little bit more discriminating and critical of what I read and how I read. I'm able to better identify what worked in a book and what didn't, and I'm better able to make the distinction between a good book and a fun read.

    But since I primarily review the books I would have read even if I wasn't doing reviews, not much has changed in terms of the kind of books I read, at least. Just in the detail of which I think about them.

  22. 1) Depends on the time and the no. of pages of the book. Lots of time and less pages will make me go bigamy with two or three similar length books. Other than that, I stay with just one at a time.

    2 - 3) I tend to read lots of different genres, just to make sure I don't jumble up the stories. I usually differentiate the stories by remembering the name of the main character. Fantasy tends to have weird names while mystery or thriller tends to have generic names, so it's easier for me to keep track of the story by remembering the names. I don't usually change the location of reading, just the time.

    4) To keep the interest up. If I find a particular book hard to finish, I'll try to read something else to refresh my interest and basically try to look at the book from a different perspective.

  23. When I review books for Hub Magazine I usually just rotate them into the ever-growing stack of books I have to read. I usually put them next on the list, after the book I'm currently reading. As I'm averaging a book every week / week and a half it's not too much of a change in my habits. It just means the books I'm reading for my own personal pleasure are pushed back one down the list.

    To tell the truth, 90% of the time the books I'm reviewing for Hub ARE the books I want to read anyway as I'm a huge Sci-Fi & Horror fan.

  24. @ Jo - I've checked out your blog and your particular post on this subject: good job on both. Y'all others should totally go check her out too :-)

    @EdiFanoB - Ha, that is a tricky little name to write! I like the idea of reviewing a book as you go along, noting down ideas and suchlike - I think I'll steal it! At the moment I just try to come up with my whole review at the end and I'm sure I miss out thoughts that occur to me during the actual read.

    @Ria and Scott - I have to say, the only way that reviewing books has changed my reading habits so far is the date of publication and how far up my reading list that book should therefore go. As with you two, I am reviewing the kinds of books that would have been on my wishlist prior to now anyway.

    @ Ganz - another bigamist! Wow, there are a lot of you :-)

  25. I only read one novel at a time. Technically though I suppose I am a bigamist as I'm usually reading a short story or collection at the same time. I try to read one short story a day, but with time constraints it's not always possible. Plus, my current novel takes precedence.

  26. At minimum I have three books going at a time.
    A non-fiction book, an audio book in the car and fictional novel of some kind. I also have about a half dozen books around that are waiting to be completed that have not been given up on and at least one book in the middle of a re-read by my bed. Then there is the special case of City of God by Agustine, I am slowly picking my way through it with an approximate completion time of 2020. Seriously I love reading a variety of books and unless a book is a 5 out of 5, the book will usually get interupted by the reading of something else at least once.

    I do try and co-ordinate my audio book and my fictional book so the worlds don't confuse themselves.

    I think I bounce around books for the same reason I bounce around chores, or to-do lists, I go as my mood flows and sometimes I get distracted by pretty covers.

  27. I'm totally a book bigamist. Sometimes, I'd read 3 to 4 books at the same time. I don't have a problem keeping track of the characters or the plots though. I guess my brain is wired that way, and I do study in front of the TV too ... so I guess I have one of those restless brains ....

    The only time I'm 'loyal' to a book is if it's extremely difficult to put down. It must be a really (ahem) exciting book for me to be loyal to it and read it without another book trying to get between the both of us. This is rather rare though ....

    Admittedly, if I do read several books at once, it tends to be of different genres. For example, I'd read a fantasy trilogy alongside a non-fiction book on economics, and if I do feel ever so inclined, add a romance novel to the mix. ;)

  28. I tend to have one fiction and one non-fiction on the go. Otherwise, it's only one fiction at a time.

  29. Gosh, thanks to these extra comments on my question about book bigamy!

    I was starting to feel a little left out considering it seems as though everyone who stopped by and commented reads more than one book at a time so..... *drum roll please*

    ...I picked up a second book last night to take in the bath. I have been reading Wolfsangel by MD Lachlan the last day or so, but didn't fancy it as bathtime fodder, so I picked up some disposable chick lit for the purpose. So *hyperventilates* I'm currently reading two books at once! I'll let you know how it goes :-)